Healthy drinks brewed in Drumbo proving popular choice

Experienced botanist Dr Peter Barrett, the owner of Steeper Culture, a small brewer of healthy teas in Drumbo, Co Down, believes in making “drinks to be enjoyed with food, for good times, and always for your good health”.

Peter, who has an extensive scientific background, has just rebranded and relaunched the business, a producer of a range of kombucha, a non-alcoholic drink from a fermented tea base that he launched almost a decade ago under the Craft Tea Brew Company identity.

The new Steeper Culture branding has been developed to reflect the essential nature of the beverages as drinks that have been steeped and cultured or fermented.  “That’s the unique selling point of the products and it’s very rare for a non-alcoholic beverage,” Peter says. The company is a Food NI member.

“I also like the alternative meaning of culture in terms of a craft and traditional culture,” he adds. “Our mission is to brew healthy, clean-label but interesting drinks with a tea base. Craft drinks that are literally ‘steeped’ (infused) and ‘cultured’ (fermented).”

Kombucha, a unique beverage, is a fermented fizzy tea drink, which many nutritionists reckon really is good for you.

The canned beverages, which are readily available in many delis and farm shops, is brewed using tea sourced from a single Kenyan estate with added healthy bacteria and yeast and then left for a period to ferment.

 It’s completely natural. The probiotic bacteria and yeast absorb sugars into ethanol and acetic acid. Probiotic bacteria can help to balance the gut microbiome in humans and improve digestion.

Kombucha has been found to contain antioxidants that help to protect the body. It also contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals which are produced when the yeast breaks down the sugars, including vitamin C and B, B1, B6 and B12.

The teas come in a range of refreshing fruity flavours including strawberry lemonade, cherry lime, and Lightning McGreen,


Customers include delis Sawers, Arcadia, Oliver’s, Framar Health and Nature’s Way and coffee shops Established, Brew and Bake and Kaffe O, all in Belfast.

Peter’s interest in botanicals comes from his career as a botanist/agronomist. He graduated from Queen’s University in Plant Science and subsequently gained a doctorate in Agronomy in 2000. A research post with QUB’s Department of Applied Plant Science and then an agency, now the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, followed.

Peter was there for five years before moving to a business development role throughout Europe with a sustainable soil and plant nutrition company in Brittany.

His other expertise includes anaerobic digestion, a fermentation process that breaks down organic matter to generate renewable and sustainable energy. He subsequently set up his own consultancy here.

This knowledge of fermentation was a useful insight when he began to produce kombucha.

“It took time for me to create a kombucha that I enjoy,” he continues. ”It was only ever intended for my consumption. More recently I found myself gradually increasing volume as more friends also enjoy it. Then it just seemed to snowball in what has become a bit of a blur until the point, several years ago, when it first went to market,” he explains.

Another influence on his thinking was time spent in health and exercise conscious California, where Kombucha is commonplace in food stores and cafes.

Of all the teas he experimented with over the years, he found one he really liked from a local importer. So, he approached them for guidance in sourcing the best tea for commercial brewing.

“I knew the tea I liked but still did some tasting of different products. This confirmed my choice and gave me a better understanding of tea,” he adds. 

It means the tea for Peter’s kombucha is premium quality, from a reliable source and fully traceable. Added to the tea is his special bio culture nurtured for almost five years. “The product is a true craft brew. I brew everything myself in small batches and have total control over everything.”

He launched Lightning McGreen kombucha as his first under the overall branding of Bucha’s Dog, Craft Tonic Brews. “I wanted an identity that is quirky, a bit of fun and appealed particularly to younger consumers. It’s a play on words of the saying ‘as fit as a butcher’s dog’ with Buchas an abbreviation of kombucha. Generally, kombucha drinkers are fit too! Or at least have good aspirations.

“Lightning McGreen reflected the green tea base and the name of the gardens where it was sourced, known locally as The Place of Lightning,” he says.

He also launched another variety, Assamson and Goliath, brewed with a black tea from India’s Assam. He chose this brand for a local identity. “And there’s no stronger identity than the huge cranes at the iconic Harland and Wolff shipyard,” he adds.

“There’s a long and exciting list of botanical infused kombuchas to come from other teas with the addition of spice, fruit and herbs. I always want the kombuchas to be more craft tonic than soft drink,” he adds.